CD reviews

This week: Bats & Mice, Norman Cook, The Sunshine Fix, Various Artists Bats & Mice Believe It Mammals (Lovitt) If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to make a wager: Bats & Mice is yet another

This week: Bats & Mice, Norman Cook, The Sunshine Fix, Various Artists

Bats & Mice
Believe It Mammals

If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to make a wager: Bats & Mice is yet another mediocre emo band. “A Safe Bet,” the whiny lead track from this undistinguished debut album, is the bookie’s dough.

Forget the fact that this Richmond, Va., quartet features ex-members of tons of other bands. These days, that’s like saying a band has a bass player. Three members share lead vocal duties — an odd move that adds variety, but also sacrifices focus.

When the melodies aren’t pulverized by post-rock malice (“A Polished Facade”) and the band isn’t smoking too much Sebadoh (“Motel”), B&M can write a decent tune or two. “Easy” is an affecting dissertation on difficult emotional states and “Hallway” dilutes the sane parts of Modest Mouse for a pleasant, if less-than-genius, chunk of boy rock.

But with vast amounts of Sunny Day Real Estate, Fugazi and Death Cab for Cutie in its DNA, Bats & Mice succumbs to its lack of individuality.
—Neal Ramirez

Norman Cook
All Star Break Beats
Paul Oakenfold
Bust a Groove
(Hypnotic Recordings/Cleopatra Records)

First, a warning: these CDs are not new albums by Norman Cook, a.k.a. Fatboy Slim, or Paul Oakenfold for two reasons. First, the former was originally released about a decade ago and second, both are “breaks and beats” CDs. For the non-DJ oriented, a “breaks and beats” collection is a compilation of loops chosen by the respective artist. In other words, each album is about an hour of two-minute samples.

These are created for practical reasons: DJs used them like crazy during the late 1980s to the point where the samples just got tired (for instance, how many times have you heard Trouble Funk’s line “Pump, pump, pump, pump me up” in a DJ’s mix? Exactly.) Nowadays, however, the old school is on the rise and the demand for samples is back thanks to virtual turntables, Protools, and sites dedicated to remixing your favorite artists.

Cook’s version of the exercise is very characteristic of his style: most samples are classic hip-hop and quite cheeky. Cleopatra has added 50 snippets of vocal lines as well, quite a few being famous Martha Wash samples like “Good Vibration” and “Right on Time.” The set’s only problem is a big one: many of the samples cut off at inappropriate times which might be a pain for those who are using them to underscore remixes.

Oakenfold’s Groove seems to be more useful if you want to be on the cutting edge. Most of the samples are uncommon, about three minutes long and can be played around with more than Cook’s selections. The styles on this CD are not very characteristic of the “Oakenfold sound.” They are funkier with hardly any vocals — perfect for remixing.

If you are more prone to the turntablist realm, go for All Star but if you want to show the guys and gals on the Bjork remix Web site what you’re made of, give Groove a try.
—Maureen Walsh

The Sunshine Fix
Age Of The Sun
(Emperor Norton)

Since the Beatles’ invasion in 1964, British Rock has been not only extremely popular across the board, but also very lucrative. Time and time again bands have taken on the sounds invented by the Beatles and tried to run with them, failing more often then not. The Sunshine Fix with its first full-length release, Age of the Sun, is no exception.

Featuring candy-coated and extremely repetitive lyrics, one can’t help but cringe at their desperate attempt to mimic the Beatles. Mellow vocals with limited range and far too many synthesizers (out of sync with each other), make for a less than pleasant listening experience. Not to mention the odd background tracks that sound like the production staff mumbling to one another while flipping through papers.

The Sunshine Fix does, however, have one good thing to offer: potential. With their quirky music and catchy lyrics they have the ability to really take off once their music becomes a little less repetitive and more defined.
—Moira Cochran

The Sunshine Fix will play at The Khyber on Feb. 22

Various Artists
Timeless: Honoring the Music of Hank Williams
(Lost Highway)

Hank Williams died in 1953 at the age of 29. He was found dead in the back of his Cadillac after suffering a heart attack induced by his habitual drinking. His life was filled with alcohol, drug-use and depression. Now, 49 years later, his songs continue to tell of it.

With Timeless, many of Hank Williams’ disciples collaborate to create one of the most unique tribute albums in years. Interestingly, it is an album on which the country music legend is honored by artists who do not identify with the superficial country scene. Rather, these artist scoff at the conformity of contemporary Nashville, and in that way reflect the rebellious nature of Williams.

Timeless has received five Grammy nominations in total, including best country album. Sheryl Crow was nominated for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for “Long Gone Lonesome Blues,” a beautifully reworked song that features some of the most impressive vocals heard in years.

Other highlights include Tom Petty’s energetic version of “You’re Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave),” Lucinda Williams’ brooding version of “Cold, Cold Heart,” and Emmylou Harris’ hauntingly beautiful version of “Alone and Forsaken.”

To add some authority to the record, fellow outlaw Johnny Cash has the last say with his take on the obscure “I Dreamed About Mama Last Night.”

The other contributing artists include Ryan Adams, Beck, Bob Dylan, Keb’ Mo’, Mark Knopfler, Keith Richards and Hank Williams III.

Ask any contemporary country, rock or pop artist who influenced them, and they will almost assuredly reel-off a familiar list: The Beatles, The Stones and Elvis. While Hank Williams’ name may not appear as often, his impact is undoubtedly as great.
—Jesse Chadderdon

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